Natural Hazards

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 187-207

First online:

Impact of Sea-level Rise and Storm Surges on a Coastal Community

  • K. L. McinnesAffiliated withDivision of Atmospheric Researcg, CSIRO
  • , K. J. E. WalshAffiliated withDivision of Atmospheric Researcg, CSIRO
  • , G. D. HubbertAffiliated withDivision of Atmospheric Researcg, CSIRO
  • , T. BeerAffiliated withDivision of Atmospheric Researcg, CSIRO

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A technique to evaluate the risk of storm tides (the combination of a storm surge and tide) under present and enhanced greenhouse conditions has been applied to Cairns on the north-eastern Australian coast. The technique combines a statistical model for cyclone occurrence with a state-of-the-art storm surge inundation model and involves the random generation of a large number of storm tide simulations. The set of simulations constitutes a synthetic record of extreme sea-level events that can be analysed to produce storm tide return periods. The use of a dynamic storm surge model with overland flooding capability means that the spatial extent of flooding is also implicitly modelled. The technique has the advantage that it can readily be modified to include projected changes to cyclone behaviour due to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Sea-level heights in the current climate for return periods of 50, 100, 500 and 1000 years have been determined to be 2.0 m, 2.3 m, 3.0 m and 3.4 m respectively. In an enhanced greenhouse climate (around 2050), projected increases in cyclone intensity and mean sea-level see these heights increase to 2.4 m, 2.8 m, 3.8 m and 4.2 m respectively. The average area inundated by events with a return period greater than 100 years is found to more than double under enhanced greenhouse conditions.